Did you ever teach your dog something you would now like to get them to stop doing? Now you’re wondering, “how do I correct a training mistake?” Training a dog is hard work but it is very rewarding – most of the time. Unsuspecting pet owners may “teach” their dog a new trick or behavior without realizing it is becoming a learned habit. Dogs are creatures of habit, so it is not unusual for them to pick up on a behavior sooner rather than later, and if you’ve encouraged it, their new habit is reinforced.
How Do I Correct a Training Mistake in My Dog?
What if you want that behavior to go away? Perhaps your dog has been allowed on the furniture, and with the purchase of a new couch, you want them to stay down. Or with the introduction of a new baby, you don’t want your dog jumping up to greet you when you walk in the door – something you used to encourage. A dog owner on one of our favorite forums wanted her dog to stop tearing apart plastic bags and posted the question “Did you ever teach your dog something you would now like to get them to stop doing?”
Here are some of the responses, along with suggestions for how to break the habit:
- Bell ringing. Mary G.’s border collie was taught to ring a bell when she wanted to go outside, but she quickly began ringing a bell when she wanted anything. Mary removed the bell, but she could have tried giving positive reinforcement, such as words of praise and a treat, when the bell was used properly, and a sharp “No!” with a finger snap when her dog used the bell incorrectly.
- Leave it! Ryan N. commented that his grandmother had given his former dog, Sydney, socks to play with, and Sydney quickly began destroying all socks in the house. With some conscientious training using socks and other toys, Sydney could have been taught socks are off-limits. Place approved toys around the room, along with a few socks. As the dog sniffs the toys and socks, say “Leave it!” each time the dog nears a sock. Give praise and treats each time the dog chooses appropriate toys. After several concentrated training sessions of this sort, the dog will realize socks are not toys.
- Personal space. Amy W. allowed her puppies to sit on her stomach when they were tiny, and now as 20-something pound dogs, it is a little much when they climb on her. A simple “down!” command should help with this one. As the dog is approaching to sit or lay down near your body, snap and point down while simultaneously saying “Down!” Consistency is key here; if you allow your dog to cuddle next to you while watching TV but later don’t want him lying on you while sleeping, he will get confused. It’s best to keep him down at all times.
- The Cesar Way. Robert I.’s Newfoundland puppy Mark was encouraged by his sister to jump up on her; as a small puppy, that wasn’t such a big deal, but as a full-grown Newf, he was as tall as a person when standing on his hind legs. Jumping is a tough behavior to curb. It seems to be out of excitement, but Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, shares it is actually a sign of dominance. Don’t give your dog affection when you walk in the door if she is jumping on you. Tell her to sit, and only once she does, give her a pat and a treat so she knows that is the correct behavior.
It is possible to teach old dogs new tricks. The key is consistency with training the new behavior, and lots of praise when they get it right. Before long, the undesired behavior will be gone, and you and your dog will be the happier for it.